The risk of birth defects can be reduced by nearly 70 percent if pregnant women take at least 400 micrograms of folic acid a day, according to the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals (DHH), which is trying to get the word out during National Folic Acid Awareness Week this week.
Consuming folic acid regularly a year before pregnancy can result in fewer pre-term births, low birth-weight babies and birth defects, according to DHH. For the mother, folic acid helps cells reproduce faster, the body heal faster and strengthens the skin, hair and nails. To make sure women get enough of the nutrient, DHH offers folic acid vitamins to all of its family planning clients in health units statewide and urges women who want to become pregnant to take the supplements prior to conception. Folic acid can be found in oranges, bananas, broccoli, spinach, kale, asparagus, dried beans, nuts and a variety of grain products. — Kandace Power Graves